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Produce Can Cause Foodborne Illness

When I teach food safety classes, I often ask my students which foods they associate with particular foodborne illnesses. They usually associate chicken or eggs with salmonella.

But what about produce?

Salmonella infections can cause fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. For young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, the illness can be life threatening.

Through the years, several types of fresh fruits and vegetables have been linked to foodborne illness outbreaks. By definition, an “outbreak” means at least two people have gotten sick from a specific food.

Spinach, lettuce, cantaloupe, alfalfa sprouts, raspberries and other fresh produce items have had their days in the media spotlight when they have been linked to foodborne illnesses.

We in nutrition encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables, but of course, we don’t want people to become ill in the process. Sometimes food safety is beyond our control and extends back to the food processor or producers, so we must abide by recalls.

Often, however, we as consumers can make or break the safety of our food. Can you answer these questions? This quiz is based on information from the national “Fight BAC” produce safety campaign. The answers follow.

1. When cleaning fruits and vegetables, you should never use these two types of cleaning agents. What are they?

2. If you keep your fruits and vegetables separate from household chemicals and meat, you are avoiding this food safety mistake. What is it called?

3. You should refrigerate all cut, peeled or cooked fresh fruits and vegetables within how long?

4. If fresh fruit such as cantaloupe or watermelon touches raw chicken, what should you do with the fruit?

– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L.R.D., is a North Dakota State

University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist

and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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